6 Ways Psychology Can Improve Your Cold Calling Results

Dealing with resistant prospects can be challenging, frustrating, and unpleasant. But it’s all worth it for a steady stream of appointments. So how can you change your approach to create more reliable results? Try using science.

Let’s play cold calling Mad Libs:

“My second biggest complaint about cold calling is [FILL IN THE BLANK].”

(Your first complaint is too many voicemails, right? Check out the Boomerang Message later in this post.)

But when your prospects do answer the phone, what your biggest frustration?

My answer has nothing to do with how hard it is to pick up the phone and call a complete stranger.

My biggest complaint about cold calling is inconsistent results.

Yes, dealing with resistant prospects can be challenging, frustrating, and unpleasant. But it’s all worth it for a steady stream of appointments.

So how can you change your approach to create more reliable results? Try using science.

Specifically, you can use Robert Cialdini’s 6 Principles of Persuasion—the proven psychological triggers that increase the odds your prospects will say “yes” to your request—to boost your cold calling success. Here’s how:


The principle of Reciprocity holds that prospects are more likely to say “yes” after you give them something of value, because people feel a strong obligation to give back what they have received.

Try emailing your prospect with some helpful information before you call. Offer them helpful tips, or a link to an insightful blog post, or an interesting white paper.

Not only will you warm up your cold call, you’ll trigger your prospect’s “reciprocity reflex,” and increase the odds they’ll agree to take your call or set an appointment.


The principle of Authority says that prospects are more likely to act on advice from credible, knowledgable experts.

The information you send your prospect before your call already goes a long way toward establishing your authority. When you get your prospect on the phone, he may be more receptive to what you have to say.

But you can also reinforce that authority in order to connect with your prospect in the first place.

If you reach a gatekeeper when you call, say:

“I’m following up on some information I recently brought to [PROSPECT’S] attention.”

When you emphasize that you’re following up on information, you project confidence and emphasize a prior connection to your prospect. As a result of that added sense of authority, the gatekeeper may be more likely to transfer your call.

Likability & Familiarity

According to the principle of Likability & Familiarity, prospects are more likely to say “yes” to people they like and feel a connection to.

On a cold call, likability comes from being honest and genuine.

Unfortunately, most sales reps convey the opposite when they’re on the phone. Consider this advice from trust-based sales coach Ari Galper:

“When people call me and ask how they can throw out their scripts and cold call the natural way, the first thing I do is ask them whether they’re willing to role-play with me using their script.

As soon as they start reading their script, a couple of things happen. I hear their voices go up in volume so they sound enthusiastic. They also talk faster, and their voice takes on a canned, robotic quality. All these things trigger the negative ‘salesperson’ stereotype.”

Think about it—do you do the same thing? Does your performance come across as “honest and genuine”?

The best script in the world won’t help you if you can’t deploy it with total comfort and confidence. And for that, you need practice, and lots of it.

Find a partner and start role playing. Aspire to sound like exactly what you are: a human being. Your prospect will like you a lot more if you do.


The principle of Scarcity states that, when there’s less of something, prospects are more likely to take action to get it.

On a cold call, it can be difficult to employ scarcity without appearing to be giving an ultimatum to your prospect. You don’t ever want your prospect to feel like this is their “last chance” to do business with you.

But scarcity is really just a way to introduce urgency into the equation. “Limited Availabilty!” or “Sale Ends Tomorrow!” really mean this: if you don’t act fast, you might squander a good opportunity.

On your next cold call, ask questions that highlight the importance of your prospect’s time, and the cost of wasting it:

“How much do you think your problem is costing you?”

“Do you have a timetable for taking action?”

“If you don’t address it now, do you think it will get better on its own?”

“What else might you do that will produce different results?”

If you put a timer on your prospect’s decision-making process, you ratchet up the urgency, and clear a path for your prospect to act.

Commitment & Consistency

The principle of Commitment & Consistency is rooted in the fact that people feel compelled to remain consistent with the things they say or do.

If your prospect continues to resist, use the “3-6-9” question at the end of your call with the goal of establishing a timeframe for future follow-up.

“I understand you don’t want to meet right now. So let me ask you: 3, 6, or 9?”

When your prospect says, “What do you mean?” or “I don’t understand?”, say:

“When should I follow up: in 3, 6, or 9?”

Let your prospect define the timeframe: days, weeks, months, etc. Whatever they answer, they’ve agreed to a small step now that can turn into something bigger down the road.

Social Proof

Finally, the principle of Social Proof holds that prospects are more likely to take action when they perceive others doing the same thing.

And that’s where the Boomerang Message comes in.

When you continually get voicemail and work with a competitor of your prospect, leave this message:

“Hi {PROSPECT’S FIRST NAME}. This is {YOUR NAME}. I’m calling regarding {COMPETITOR COMPANY WHO IS YOUR CLIENT}. Please get back to me at {PHONE NUMBER}. Again, this is {YOUR NAME} at {PHONE NUMBER}. I look forward to speaking with you.”

When you mention your prospect’s competitor, you flip that switch in their brain that’s instantly curious to know what other companies might be doing—and what they might be missing out on.

Now that you have proven strategies for persuading prospects say “yes” to take your calls and set appointments, all you need is some prospects to call! Want to know the exact number of good, local prospects you could email using the BWise prospecting database?

Use our free Prospect Finder.